BECAUSE AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET JUST ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH

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There is a lot written about anti-inflammatory diets, and there is a ton of research looking at the anti-inflammatory effects of foods and supplements.  Fish oil and tumeric are examples of supplements that have been extensively researched.  Take a minute and google 'anti-inflammatory diet', or 'top anti-inflammatory foods', and you'll see just how much information is out there.  Dietary approaches that are anti-inflammatory emphasize vegetables, fruit, healthy fats such as olive oil and the omega-3 oils found in fish, and nuts and seeds.  At the same time they eliminate foods that contribute to inflammation such as refined grains, sugars, and deep-fried foods.  The Mediterranean Diet is a good example of a well researched anti-inflammatory diet.

People can experience some great benefits when they make changes to their existing food choices that include more anti-inflammatory foods.  There is a dilemma with this approach though.  The problem is that an anti-inflammatory diet just manages inflammation.  It does not address why there is inflammation in the first place.  It can be a bit like trying to put out a fire that is still being fed fuel at the same time.  Imagine a fire that is being sprayed with water, while at the same time gasoline is also being continually added.  A similar thing can happen in your body.  You can be feeding it anti-inflammatory foods, but if the inflammation is still being fuelled, then the inflammation might diminish, but will never go away.  If you have an ongoing health condition, then this is likely the case.

WHAT IS FUELLING MY INFLAMMATION?

All chronic health conditions have an inflammatory component.  Whether you have a skin condition, a brain condition, an autoimmune condition, heart disease, digestive struggles or any other ongoing health issues, inflammation will be part of that condition.  Inflammation is a normal part of your body's healing cascade.  It is a part of your immune system's response to fix whatever is wrong in your body.  When a health problem becomes chronic, you need to ask yourself "what's fuelling my inflammation?"

HOW DO I FIGURE OUT WHERE MY INFLAMMATION IS COMING FROM?

To understand what is fuelling your fire, it is important to start digging into possible contributing factors.  Here are some steps you can take to help determine where your inflammation is starting.

1.  Visit your family doctor and request some blood work.  Good markers of inflammation include:
- CRP (C-reactive protein) - this test is a good indicator of overall inflammation
- Fasting insulin and Hemoglobin A1C - these tests will provide a good picture of blood sugar imbalances, which can help you determine if this imbalance is fuelling your fire

2.  Visit a naturopathic or functional doctor.  There are some private lab tests that will help you figure out where your inflammation is stemming from.
- Urine Element Analysis - this test identifies heavy metal toxicity.  Heavy metals can include mercury, aluminum, cadmium, arsenic, lead, and thallium.  If you have worked with any of these substances in your job, if you wear lipstick (many contain lead), if you eat a lot of predatory fish such as tuna, shark or swordfish or if you have received vaccinations, then you may have accumulated some of these metals in your body.  These can be inflammatory, and your doctor can help support safe removal of these from your body.
- Environmental Toxicity - in addition to heavy metals, we are constantly being exposed to other toxins through the air we breathe, the body care products we use, the cleaning products we use, the pesticides and herbicides that are sprayed on our food etc.  As with heavy metals, these can accumulate in some individuals and contribute to inflammation.
- Food sensitivity testing (IgG and IgA) - these tests measure whether or not certain foods are causing an immune reaction.  Any immune reaction involves inflammation.  If you are reacting to foods, then there is something deeper going on, so you'll still need to go one step further to figure out the origins of your inflammation, such as testing for leaky gut.
- Leaky gut - there are a variety of tests available to test if your intestines are permeable.  Intestinal permeability (or leaky gut) allows a variety of molecules (including food molecules that trigger an IgG response) to leak through the intestinal barrier into your body.  When this happens your immune system reacts, resulting in inflammation.
- Comprehensive Stool Analysis - this test gives you a general picture of what is going on with your gut microbiome.  Your microbiome plays a large role in modulating and regulating your immune system, so if something shows up with this test (an overgrowth or an insufficiency) it can directly or indirectly impact inflammation.  Food sensitivities can result when your microbiome is imbalanced.  This test can also help determine if you have a parasitic infection.
- Organic Acids Test (OATS) - sometimes metabolic products resulting from your body's own processes, or those produced by your gut microbiome can contribute to inflammation.  This test will show you if some of your metabolites are outside of the normal range.  I find this test useful when you have had some of the other tests done, and have addressed those aspects of your inflammation, but are still struggling with ongoing inflammation.
- Infections - infections can be bacterial, fungal, parasitic or viral.  Acute infections are easy to identify, but low-grade chronic infections can be harder to figure out, and might be fuelling your inflammation.  The kind of testing you do will be based on a doctor's evaluation, but might include the amount and type of antibodies found in your blood, white blood cell counts, or testing for something specific like H. pylori.  It's important to work with your doctor to figure out if any type of infection is present.

A DIET THAT ADDRESSES INFLAMMATION

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There are dietary approaches that address the root causes of your inflammation.  A Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet, and Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) are all designed to address leaky gut, and feed your microbiome in a way that supports beneficial species and starves out pathogenic ones.  An AIP diet also addresses many of the most common food sensitivities, but SCD and GAPS can also be customized to address these. All three of these protocols can be considered Paleo or ancestral types of diets that are gut-healthy.

Once you have explored possible sources of toxicity or low-grade infection, then the option exists to pursue various treatment options through your naturopathic or functional doctor, and you can support those treatments with dietary recommendations specific to your area of concern.

If you are eating a lot of anti-inflammatory foods, then keep up the good work!  You are already  well on your way!  

 If you are still struggling with your symptoms, then maybe its time to start digging a bit deeper, and ask yourself where your inflammation is coming from.  Start by scheduling an appointment with your family doctor.

What is fuelling your fire?

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey
PS - I'll be taking a break for the summer, so you won't see a blog article until the fall.

 

 

AMAZING, SIMPLE PANNA COTTA YOU'LL LOVE.

Sorry I'm a bit later than usual in writing my blog!

As happens in life sometimes,  I've had a really busy couple of months.  Between teaching days and evenings, and giving workshops and presentations on the weekends, there was just no time left to write.  The little time I had left was spent with my family.

When things get that busy, having simple recipes is really important.  My kids like sweet treats (who doesn't!), so Panna Cotta fit my criteria for REALLY SIMPLE.  Panna Cotta is a traditional Italian custard-like dessert made from cream.  It is easy to make a gut-healthy version, and takes about 15 minutes of preparation time.  I hadn't made Panna Cotta until recently, but because it was so simple, I was still able to experiment with different flavours despite my busy schedule.  I could make a batch before heading out to work, and it would set in the fridge and be ready for my family that evening.  Since they were in charge of their own dinner preparation for many of these days, being able to prepare something special for them made me feel I was still nourishing them.

Usually Panna Cotta is a simple vanilla flavour, and gets topped with berries or fruit sauce.  It's a beautiful dessert, and looks lovely for special occasions, but I came up with some flavourful variations.  This delicious treat contains gelatin to support your gut lining, and healthy fats too!  

CHOCOLATE PANNA COTTA

Chocolate is always a big hit in our household, so it goes without saying that I had to try a chocolate version.  Chocolate is rich in polyphenols and minerals!

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Ingredients
1 can full-fat coconut milk (I like the Natural Value which is carrageenan and BPA free)
1/3 cup raw honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (alcohol-free)
1 1/2 teaspoons grass-fed gelatin (like Vital Proteins or Great Lakes Gelatin)
1 Tablespoon raw cacao powder (sifted so there aren't any lumps)

1.  In a small saucepan (without heat), whisk 1/2 the can of coconut milk with the gelatin.  Allow to bloom for 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and heat over medium-low, whisking to dissolve the gelatin. Don't let it boil!
2.  Remove from heat and add the honey, cacao and remaining coconut milk.
3.  Pour into 4 small dishes and place in the fridge to set.  This takes about 4 hours.

To make this recipe AIP compliant, swap the cacao with carob powder.
 

MANGO PANNA COTTA

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I love the mango for it's sweetness and beautiful colour, but mangos are also high in fibre and rich in anti-oxidants.

Ingredients
1 can full-fat coconut milk (I like the Natural Value which is carrageenan and BPA free)
3 cups cubed mango (or 400g) fresh or frozen (if using frozen, thaw the mango first)
1/4 cup raw honey
1 Tablespoon gelatin (like Vital Proteins or Great Lakes Gelatin)

1.  In a small saucepan (without heat), whisk the full can of coconut milk with the gelatin.  Allow to bloom for 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and heat over medium-low, whisking to dissolve the gelatin. Don't let it boil!
2.  While the coconut milk is warming, puree the mango in a blender until smooth and creamy.
3.  Remove the milk from heat and add the honey, and mango puree.
4.  Pour into 6 small dishes and place in the fridge to set.  This takes about 4 hours.

 Be creative.  For a Chia Tea version, replace the cacao powder in the Chocolate Panna Cotta with 1 teaspoon of chai spice blend.  This is my daughter's favourite.  Use spices you tolerate to create your own blend.

Be creative.  For a Chia Tea version, replace the cacao powder in the Chocolate Panna Cotta with 1 teaspoon of chai spice blend.  This is my daughter's favourite.  Use spices you tolerate to create your own blend.

MAKE UP YOUR OWN PANNA COTTA

The varieties of Panna Cotta you can make are endless, so be creative.  It's hard to make a mistake with something so simple.

Besides being quick and simple, this is a great recipe to impress friends with, or to add to a summer barbeque or potluck.

Do you have a favourite simple dessert?  Add your favourite flavour by commenting.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

 

 

3 DIETARY MYTHS BUSTED

MYTH #1 -  I SHOULD EAT A LOT OF FIBRE!
There is a lot of truth to this statement, but not everyone should be eating a lot of fibre.  The benefits of fibre are well documented and include pooping regularly, feeding your gut microbiome, and helping to clear debris and toxins out of your digestive tract.  But fibre can be very irritating to a damaged gut, especially insoluble fibre like that found in bran, whole grains, flax seed and legumes.

There are people who should actually be aiming for a low fibre diet.  If you struggle with frequent diarrhea, then you should be eating a low fibre diet.  Some conditions that can involve diarrhea include Celiac disease, diarrhea-dominant IBS, diarrhea-dominant SIBO, Crohn's, or colitis.  Other reasons might include the removal of your gallbladder, a parasitic infection, lactose intolerance, or colon cancer.

If you have ongoing problems with diarrhea, then it is important that you visit your healthcare practitioner to dig into the root cause.

A dietary approach to address diarrhea includes eating low fibre foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and a lot of meat stock or bone broth.  Fermented dairy or coconut products like yogurt and kefir are also good choices.  Low fibre vegetables include squash, carrots, beets, and turnips.  You can make other vegetables like broccoli, lower in fibre by removing fibrous stems. 

Once diarrhea subsides, then you can slowly add fibre back into your diet, and reap all of its benefits!

MYTH #2 - RAW FOODS ARE BEST!
Raw foods can be great, because they contain a lot of enzymes that can facilitate metabolic processes in the body.  Nutrients can be hard to extract from raw foods though, especially when your gut health is compromised.  You need optimal digestive function for the nutrients to be extracted from foods, and you need a healthy gut lining to absorb those nutrients.

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Leaky gut has been correlated to numerous chronic health conditions such as autoimmune conditions and systemic inflammation (Source), as well as many neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease (Source).  When your gut is leaky, then the function of your intestinal cells becomes compromised, altering their ability to digest and absorb nutrients.  Given that leaky gut is correlated to many chronic health conditions, it becomes important to consume foods in an easily digestible format, and cooked foods allow for easier digestibility.

Cooking vegetables can break down cell walls making it easier for your body to extract many nutrients.  While some nutritional value is lost during cooking, it is important to consider the state of digestive function overall.  When digestive function is compromised, such as when leaky gut is present, then cooking foods ensures that nutrients can be extracted from foods.

Raw foods that are still easy to digest include soaked or sprouted nuts and seeds, fermented vegetables, and fermented raw dairy.

Once a leaky gut is repaired, and digestive function is optimal, then slowly adding raw vegetables and fruit back into your diet will allow you to benefit from all those great enzymes!

MYTH #3 - A VEGAN DIET IS THE HEALTHIEST DIET!
A vegan or vegetarian diet is a great way to detoxify your body, and to bring down inflammation.  It can work well for some people, but not if you are dealing with a microbial imbalance in your gut, or if you have leaky gut.

Vegan diets rely on a combination of grains with legumes, nuts or seeds to meet protein requirements.  The problem with grains and legumes is that they are also high in carbohydrates that will feed pathogenic species in your gut microbiome, and can perpetuate dysbiosis (an imbalanced microbiome).  In my clinical practice, I have seen the vast majority of my clients having IgG food sensitivity reactions to a variety of grains, which indicates that the proteins in them aren't being digested properly and are leaking through the gut barrier (leaky gut).  

Additionally, phytates in grains (Source) and legumes (Source) bind to minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium making them unavailable for absorption, so a vegan diet will not optimize mineral intake into your body.  Soaking, sprouting or fermentation will make minerals more available, but you will still be left with the high carbohydrate content.

You can still have a plant-strong diet that is low in carbohydrates, and that includes animal proteins.  Think plant-strong instead of plant-based.  If you are vegan or vegetarian for ethical reasons, but suffer from chronic health conditions, then it might be time to switch to an ethically sourced plant-strong diet without grains and legumes.

MYTHS BUSTED
I hope that you are starting to recognize that some of our commonly held ideas about food don't apply to everyone, and may not be right for you.  Availability of nutrients is largely dependent on a food's matrix, which is a combination of a food's nutrients, and non-nutrients, along with their molecular relationship to one another (such as the way phytates bind to minerals). This is a growing area of study, and is helping us to bust common food myths.  It's important that you eat in a way that supports your health and that is customized to what is going on in your body, especially your digestive function and gut health.

Happy Healthy (and customized) Eating!
Tracey

 

 

WHERE VEGETARIAN AND PALEO MEET

A couple of months ago my 15 year old daughter, Anya, decided to become a vegetarian.  This is a reasonably common decision for teenage girls during a developmental period when their empathy grows, and they make the decision to stop eating meat for ethical reasons.  

If you've been following my blog for a while, then you know that I support a Paleo or Ancestral way of eating that is especially focused on restoring gut health.  I had to go through my own health crisis and journey to reach where I am at today, and that journey included being vegetarian for 10 years.  While I was a vegetarian, my health declined even as the quality of my food increased.  I spent several days completely bedridden each month with extreme nausea and fatigue, and I suffered from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Disorder that at times left me vomiting and exhausted after exposure to perfumes or chemicals that off-gassed.  Finally an alternative practitioner told me I had to start eating meat again, and that was the turning point in regaining my health.  That was long before I became a nutritional consultant and started researching the gut microbiome and intestinal permeability (leaky gut).  Once I understood how inflammatory grains and legumes were in the gut there was no turning back.  I am not 100% free of my chemical sensitivities, but the nausea and fatigue are long gone, and the hay fever that I've suffered from since I was a child is also gone.

So you can probably imagine my reaction when my daughter stopped eating meat.  I should mention that like me, she also suffers from chemical sensitivities and hay fever.  We have spend many hours discussing leaky gut, and how being a vegetarian will make it worse, but at 15 years of age she doesn't have a frame of reference to really understand what it means to be in poor health.  At this stage, the life of an animal is more important to her than her own health.

When I realized she had stopped eating meat we had a discussion about what a good vegetarian diet looks like to ensure she is getting complete proteins (all the amino acids the human body needs to repair and grow).  I told her that legumes, and nuts and seeds needed to be part of her diet.  I emphasized how often people just take meat out of their diet without understanding the need to replace the nutrients that meat provides.

The next step was to inspire Anya with great vegetarian recipes that were still nutrient dense.  Sadly there seem to be very few good vegetarian cookbooks.  I think I have signed out every cookbook the Calgary Library offers, and have been dismayed by most of them.  Entree recipes typically rely on pasta or bread with vegetables.  Rarely are there recipes that ensure adequate protein combinations.

WHERE VEGETARIAN AND PALEO MEET

One of the biggest dilemmas has been finding meal ideas that everyone can eat, but luckily there are a few sources of complete protein that fit into both a vegetarian and a Paleo diet.  These ideas can be great to take to dinner parties or social events where you don't know the dietary needs of people.

Vegetables and Fruit
Luckily all vegetables and fruit can be eaten on both diets with the exception of potatoes.  Some people on a Paleo diet can eat potatoes, but from a gut-healthy perspective they are too high in carbs, and people with autoimmune conditions can react to them.  It's very easy to find a wide variety of vegetable dishes including salads, stir-fries, roasted vegetables and soups.

Fats
Avocado oil, olive oil and coconut oil are all plant based fats that are great for both vegetarians and Paleo eaters alike.  Use coconut oil for cooking.  Olive oil should only be used for salads or drizzled over dishes - never cooked with.

Protein Sources
Hemp Seeds - these offer complete proteins and can be used in a variety of ways including making hemp seed milk.
Chia Seeds - these great little seeds also offer complete protein, as well as omega 3 fatty acids.  
Spirulina - an algae that contains complete protein.  Can be added to smoothies.
Other nuts and seeds - not complete proteins, but a great source of fats, and flours and butters can be used for baking.
Eggs - a nutrient powerhouse and a complete protein.  They are incredibly versatile for those people who tolerate them.
Raw or Cultured Dairy - raw milk is difficult to get in Alberta.  I suggest everyone avoid pasteurized milk.  Cultured dairy includes yogurt, kefir and aged, lactose-free cheeses, which all offer complete proteins.  Dairy isn't tolerate well by many people, and lactose should always be avoided when restoring gut health.

NOTE:  If you are in the early stages of an autoimmune protocol, then none of these sources of protein are good options - stick to animal proteins.

MEAL IDEAS

Cooking for the whole family has been challenging over the last couple of months, but we have found some great favourites that everyone can eat.

 I don't need to sweeten my hemp seed porridge when I add seasonal fruit, but my daughter likes hers sweetened.

I don't need to sweeten my hemp seed porridge when I add seasonal fruit, but my daughter likes hers sweetened.

Frittatas - eggs and a collection of a variety of vegetables.  An easy and simple idea for any meal.  Try mushrooms, spinach and black olives.  Cheese can be added for those who tolerate it.
Smoothies - leafy greens, fruit, MCT oil and water or a milk alternative.
Hemp & Chia Seed Porridge - served with fruit this dish makes a hearty breakfast.   Try this recipe.  For a gut-healthy version use honey as the sweetener.
Vegetable Fritters - grate up a variety of root vegetables or zucchini, and mix them up with eggs.  Form into patties and bake or fry.  Great to freeze or grab on the go.
Almond flour or coconut baking - muffins, cakes, and breads can all be made with a variety of Paleo flours and eggs.  My current favourite are Blueberry Lemon Muffins.
Nut & Vegetable Patties - These add variety to the Vegetable Fritters we make.  Try this recipe.

Are you living in a household with a variety of dietary needs?  What are your strategies to simplify meal preparation?  

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey
PS:  Do you want more relevant information about gut health?  Check me out on FaceBook.

PALEO TORTILLA CHIPS! - I'M IN HEAVEN

I don't normally write about a specific product, but I was so excited by these chips during a recent trip I took last week to San Diego that I had to share.

Sometimes being on a Paleo, gut-healthy diet is tough.  You can only eat at higher-end restaurants (which I'm not really complaining about, but it does limit your options), you often have to ask for substitutions when eating out, and you inevitably need to spend some time in your own kitchen (which is great if you like to cook, not so great if you don't like to cook).  One of my biggest frustrations is finding great products when I travel to the States, but not being able to get them locally.  I've written about this before.

So there I was perusing the aisles of Whole Foods in San Diego, and getting some Primal Kitchens Mayo, and some Epic bars - there were even amazing Paleo choices at their cafeteria style buffet where I loaded up a container for lunch one day - when I saw Grain Free Tortilla Chips.  I immediately grabbed a couple of bags and threw them into our cart.  These chips are produced by Siete, which is a family owned company that started supporting Veronica, a family member suffering from multiple autoimmune conditions, by creating grain-free tortillas and chips.  These are AMAZING!  In fact I would go so far as to say that these are better than any tortilla chip I've ever eaten.  Made from cassava flour, avocado oil, coconut flour, ground chia seed and sea salt, these chips rival the best with their crunch and flavour.

So next time you are visiting the States, leave room in your suitcase for a few bags of tortilla chips.  I even brought a bag back for my young son, who has the most sensitive of guts, and he LOVES them, and hasn't had any tummy troubles.  He was pretty excited to be able to eat a chip again.  I won't lie - I went through 4 bags in the 5 days we were on our trip.  Probably not the healthiest thing to do (still a processed food), but like I said sometimes eating this way is tough, and it was an indulgence that I didn't feel guilty about.

Want to see more products like this on local store shelves?
Talk to the customer service staff at your local health food store and inquire.  If there is enough demand, they'll start bringing in more products.  I'm trying to set up a meeting with SPUD to see if they are willing to carry more Paleo goods.
You are your strongest advocate, so if you want to see more Paleo products on store shelves, then let the store you shop at know.

Happy, Healthy Eating (and Shopping)!

Tracey

TIGERNUT TROUBLES

Do you ever buy something at the grocery store not really knowing what you are going to do with it?  I've done this with Tigernut butter, Tigernut flour and Tigernuts.  Once I get home, I start searching for recipes online, and then start trying different things out.  The trouble is that I haven't found anything I like that uses Tigernuts.

 Soaked Tigernuts over raspberries.

Soaked Tigernuts over raspberries.

Tigernuts aren't actually a nut.  They are a small tuber, just like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and cassava.  They have a sweet nutty taste, and can be a great alternative to nuts for people who have allergies or sensitivities to nuts, or who are on an autoimmune protocol.  Tigernuts are high in fibre, and are a good source of monounsaturated fats.  There are many claims that they are also high in resistant starches, but I haven't seen research supporting that claim.  Other raw tubers are high in resistant starches though, so it would make sense that this one is as well. Tigernuts are dehydrated to make them shelf-stable, and the end result looks a bit like a tiny dried wild mountain fig.  These little tubers have been embraced by the Paleo and Autoimmune communities.  I suspect that they are not SCD or GAPS compliant, due to the fact that other tubers aren't allowed on these protocols, and the high fibre content could be irritating to the gut lining.

 AIP Eat More Bars

AIP Eat More Bars

MY TROUBLES

I keep trying to find a recipe I like.  Here's my experience to date:
1.  Flour:  I tried a variety of pancake recipes, but they all seemed gooey on the inside and burnt on the outside.
2.  Whole:  I tried using the dried Tigernuts the same way I would use nuts.  I made AIP Eat More Bars, which are a sweet treat, but I find the Tigernuts to be too hard and fibrous to be enjoyable.  Then I decided to try soaking them, and put them over a bowl of berries - still too hard and fibrous to be enjoyable.  
3.  Tigernut Milk:  I haven't actually tried making this, because I know from past experience (and a bit of research to confirm) how labour intensive milks are to make, and then you have the pulp to deal with.  Dehydrated pulp makes a mediocre flour that is gritty.
4.  Tigernut Spread:  This is very similar to any other nut butter.  To date it's my favourite way to eat Tigernuts.  It's good on celery sticks or for dipping fruit into.

Have you had similar troubles with finding a way to enjoy a food?  Kale?  Liver?
Do you have a Tigernut recipe that you really enjoy?  If you do, please share!

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

HEALTHY FOODS HIGH IN HEAVY METALS

Do you try to eat the best you can?  Maybe you add a green supplement or a rice protein powder to your smoothie in the morning?  You want the best for you body, so you try to fill it with the healthiest choices you can!

What if I told you that some of those choices might not be as good as you think.

Just last week I was talking to the Calgary Gut Health = Good Health Support Group members about heavy metals, some of the sources of these metals and the health implications of these metals on the human body.  Heavy metals include things like lead, mercury, aluminum and cadmium.  The accumulation of these metals in the body can be a contributing factor to autoimmune conditions, neurological conditions, thyroid problems, kidney problems, as well as many other health conditions.  Common sources include things like silver mercury amalgam dental fillings, consumption of predatory fish like tuna or shark, vaccinations, antiperspirant use and wearing makeup.  There are a variety of industrial sources of exposure as well, such as mining and pulp and paper.

I was recently surprised to learn that there are many food sources that I had previously not known about, so I am excited to be able to share them now.

Food Forensics

Food Forensics is a book written by Mike Adams, "The Health Ranger" and founder of NaturalNews.com.  In this well-researched book, he looks at ingredients that are used in our food supply that are harmful to our health, as well as chemical contamination and heavy metal contamination.  While I was familiar with many of the additives and chemicals that are used in processed and packaged foods, I was surprised at the extent of heavy metal toxicity present in commonly eaten foods

Here is a brief summary of some of the heavy metals and the food sources they are especially high in:

Arsenic:  apple juice, rice, poultry and swine

Mercury:  high-fructose corn syrup

Lead:  chlorella from China, calcium supplements, pet treats made in China, chopped clams, sea vegetable superfoods, cacao superfoods, organic rice protein, cooking spices, fish treats for cats, sunflower seeds

Aluminum:  seaweed superfood granules, gingko supplements, a popular children's multivitamin, calcium supplements, baking powder

Copper:  children's multivitamin, line of "raw" multivitamins, popular mineral supplement

Steps to Take

1.  If you drink apple juice, then buy juice that is locally grown and produced.  Don't be fooled by the "made in Canada" label.  Many of the apples are imported from China.

2.  Replace items that use high-fructose corn syrup with items using natural sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.  High-fructose corn syrup is bad for your health for so many reasons, so this is just one more to add to the list.

3.  Replace "green" blends with fresh greens.  Add  spinach, kale, shoots or your favourite leafy greens to smoothies.  If you use chlorella then choose from outside China.  I like Giddy Yoyo's chlorella, which is sourced from Taiwan, and Mike Adams produces Clean Chlorella, which is grown in a controlled environment.

4.  Research where your supplements are sourced from.  Talk to staff in health food and supplement stores, or contact a company directly and ask what country the ingredients come from.  

5.  Replace rice protein powder with an alternative protein.  My favourite is hydrolyzed collagen such as Vital Proteins or Bulletproof.

6.  Buy an aluminum free baking powder.  These can be found in health food stores.

7.  Make your own pet treats, or visit a local farmer's market for treats, so you know exactly what is going into your pet.

8.  Buy as much locally grown and raised food as you can and prepare meals yourself.  Take a couple of hours on a weekend to do some batch cooking to last you through the week.  Casseroles, stews and soups are great things to make in large batches to get you through the week.

As a general rule, ingredients imported from China, India or Thailand tend to have much higher risk of heavy metal contamination that foods grown in North America, Europe, New Zealand or many South American countries.

For a much more detailed look at all the foods that are contaminated, and the health implications of specific heavy metal toxicity read Food Forensics by Mike Adams.  It's an easy read.

Were you as surprised as I was about the heavy metal contamination of certain foods?
What is the first change you will make?

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

COFFEE ENEMAS FOR CONSTIPATION

Do you have to add bran, flax seed, psyllium or take a supplement to help you poop?  Do you have to strain to initiate a bowel movement?  Do you have less than one bowel movement a day?  If you answered yes to any of these questions then you are amongst the many people who suffer from constipation.  Many people don't think too much about their regularity unless it gets to the stage where it becomes uncomfortable to pass stool or unless hemorrhoids develop from straining.

Constipation and Neurological Conditions

Constipation needs to be taken seriously!  Did you know that constipation occurs in people with Parkinson's before the Parkinson's symptoms show up.  It is an early indication that communication between the gut and the brain is compromised.  It is not uncommon for children with autism to only have one bowel movement per week.  Poor bowel function is associated with a number of other neurological conditions as well including Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Constipation is both a sign and a complication of neurological conditions.  Changes in the gut are one of the root causes of neurological conditions, and once neurological symptoms appear communication between the brain and the gut can become impaired which further complicates the issue.

Constipation and Autoimmune Conditions

Constipation is also associated with autoimmune conditions.  As with neurological conditions, a change in gut health is one of the root causes of autoimmunity.  In autoimmune conditions the body is attacking its own tissue, and there are many conditions in which the gut tissue is under attack.  The most well known are celiac, Crohn's and colitis, but there are many other autoimmune conditions that are systemic and can affect the whole body such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. So similarly to neurological conditions, a cycle can occur where poor gut health contributes to autoimmunity, and then the autoimmune response in the body further worsens the gut condition.

Enemas

Enemas are a fast way to resolve constipation, and they have been used for thousands of years.  Doing an enema involves purchasing an enema kit from a pharmacy.  A kit will have a bag or bucket with a hose and nozzle attached to it.  The nozzle needs to have a tap.  The bag or bucket gets filled with a solution, the nozzle gets inserted into the rectum, and the tap is opened to allow the contents to fill the colon.  Once the contents are in the colon, the tap is closed, the nozzle removed and the individual sits on a toilet to evacuate the contents.  This is a simplified description, so if you decide to do this yourself, make sure to get detailed instructions from a qualified practitioner.  

According to Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of The Gut and Psychology Syndrome, enemas are completely safe if done correctly, and are useful for relieving constipation, reducing the toxic load in the body, healing hemorrhoids and for removing fecal compactions from the colon.

Coffee Enemas

Coffee enemas are done with coffee as the solution that fills the colon.  They are used extensively in the Gerson Protocol, which is a cancer treatment program, as well as for people seeking pain relief or relief from constipation.  Coffee enemas can be particularly useful in restoring normal bowel function.  According to Datis Kharraziac, DHSc, DC, MS, author of Why Isn't My Brain Working?, "distending the intestines with an enema activates the vagus.  The caffeine stimulates intestinal motility by acting on the cholinergic receptors."  He also states that "...enemas help develop positive plastic change in their vagal system pathways."  In layman's terms this means that coffee enemas can help you overcome chronic constipation by changing the signals your intestines receive from your brain.  Once your brain begins communicating normal bowel motility again, then changes start to occur towards more frequent bowel movements.

 This is one example of an enema kit.  They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  The bag or bucket style is appropriate for adult use only.  Coffee enemas should not be performed on children.

This is one example of an enema kit.  They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  The bag or bucket style is appropriate for adult use only.  Coffee enemas should not be performed on children.

If you or someone you know suffers from constipation that hasn't been resolved through conventional approaches, then coffee enemas may offer a solution.  If neurological or autoimmune conditions are present, then performing enemas under medical supervision is advisable.  Discuss your wishes with your MD or ND to find out if there is any reason you shouldn't try coffee enemas.

Thinking this might be an option for you or a loved one?  Talk to your doctor.

Have you ever tried any kind of enema?  What were your results?

Happy, Healthy Pooping!

Tracey

 

 

 

THE MS-GUT CONNECTION

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is debilitating.  The symptoms look like you’ve taken multiple diseases and thrown them all together into one awful mix.  Common symptoms include pain, pins and needles, and muscle cramping in any part of the body.  The pain can be constant and intense.  Frequently bowel and bladder problems exist, which are problematic and can lead to embarrassing situations.  Muscle weakness can cause breathing problems and extreme fatigue.  I could go on, but I won’t.  If you have MS then you are well aware of what you are dealing with.

All of this happens because myelin is destroyed.  Myelin is the fatty sheath that protects nerve fibers.  MS is a neurological autoimmune disease.  In autoimmunity the immune system attacks body tissue, and in the case of MS the immune system is attacking part of the central nervous system (that’s the neurological part).

Thanks to the work of Alessio Fasano MD, our understanding of autoimmunity has changed.  If autoimmunity were a mathematical equation here’s what it used to look like:

genetic susceptibility + environmental trigger = autoimmunity

With new insights we now know it looks like this:

genetic susceptibility + environmental trigger + poor gut health = autoimmunity

We now know that there are conditions in our guts that have to be present for an autoimmune reaction to occur.  There are in fact two aspects that I like to think of as two sides of the same coin.  The first of these is dysbiosis and the second is intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut). 

1.  Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance in the species of organisms that live in our digestive tracts.  These organisms are often referred to as the gut microbiome.

In fact, research has identified a depletion of species from Clostridia clusters XIVa and IV, as well as a reduction in Bacteriodetes (Source).

Clostridium perfringens type B may also play a role in multiple sclerosis, but research is still in the early stages. (Source

2.  Intestinal permeability means that substances that would normally only be present in your gut are able to leak out of the gut.  The wall of the small intestine has a barrier that is only 1 cell thick.  These cells are normally connected to each other to create the barrier, but when those connections break down, then substances can go between the cells and leak out.  The leaking of these substances initiates the immune processes that are part of an autoimmune condition.

GOOD NEWS!  We can change the gut health part of the equation.  A gut healthy diet involves eating to bring the microbiome back to a healthy state, and eating to restore the intestinal barrier. 

Whether you are using MS treatments or not, a nutritional approach that addresses gut health is an important step to managing your symptoms.  It’s the one aspect of your condition that you can change.  Change your autoimmune equation today, by taking poor gut health out of the equation!

You can do this!

Have you or someone you know used diet to help manage their MS?

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

VEGETARIAN VS PALEO WARS

What is the best kind of diet for optimal health?  For several decades there has been a large vegetarian movement, but more recently the Paleo movement has been gaining momentum.  These two movements have some significant differences, yet there are strong advocates for both sides.  So how is a person to know which way of eating is the best?  

Before looking at each type of approach, it's important to note that there are ideal versions of both of these dietary approaches, and that both of them can also be done poorly.  I'll be addressing the best of both of these, which includes organic, whole foods choices.  Ideally neither  way of eating should include processed foods, or the addition of chemicals or additives.

VEGETARIAN DIET

One of the main reasons that vegetarian diets are popular is for the ethical considerations.  Many vegetarians choose to eat this way to avoid unnecessary suffering to animals, and to support farming practices that are sustainable and do the least amount of damage to our planet.  Another reason is to achieve optimal health.  A vegetarian diet eliminates meat, and a vegan diet goes one step further and eliminates all animal products including dairy, eggs and honey.  Food sources include vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, plant-based sweeteners and fats, and dairy and eggs for those that choose to consume them.  Pescetarians include fish and seafood, but otherwise adhere to vegetarian principles.

There are many well-known advocates for eating a vegetarian diet, including Dr. Dean Ornish, Brendan Brazier (co-founder of Vega), Dr. Joel Furhman, T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Neil Barnard.  There are also many athletes that have followed a vegetarian diet throughout their successful athletic careers.  Athletes place huge demands on their bodies, so the fact that they are able to accomplish what they do on a well thought-out vegetarian diet speaks well of this type of diet.

PALEO DIET

Many people turn to a Paleo diet to improve their health.  These individuals may have tried a vegetarian diet in the past, but many have not.  Food sources include pasture-raised meats, wild fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, fats, minimally processed sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup, and some people include fermented dairy in their diets.

Advocates for this type of diet include Dr. Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf, Dr. Terry Wahls (the Wahls Protocol), Dr. David Perlmutter, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (GAPS diet), Chris Kresser and Sarah Ballantyne.

COMMON GROUND

Here are some common aspects of good quality vegetarian and Paleo diets:
- they are plant-strong.  A common misconception about a Paleo way of eating is that it includes large quantities of meat.  Both diets when done well, involve large quantities of vegetables.
- nuts, seeds and fruit consumption.  Both diets allow for moderate amounts of these foods.
- fats.  Both diets can include coconut fat, avocado oil, olive oil and nut or seed oils.  Paleo diets allow animal fats from pasture-raised animals as well.
- minimal use of added sweeteners.  Whether coconut sugar, maple syrup or honey are used, any good quality diet keeps added sweeteners to a minimum, and focuses on sweeteners that still have some nutritional value.
- ferments.  Fermented foods such as cultured vegetables, kombucha, and kvass are great additions to either type of diet.  For some vegetarian and Paleo dieters, fermented dairy such as kefir, yogurt and aged-cheeses are added as well.

HOW TO CHOOSE

I should start by saying that I am on the Paleo side of this debate, so I have my personal bias.  I was a vegetarian for 10 years, believing that it was the best choice for my body.  I went through periods of veganism during that time as well.  Despite the fact that I continued to improve the quality of the food I was consuming, and continued to seek help from a variety of health practitioners during those 10 years, my health continued to decline.  Finally I saw a doctor who told me to start eating meat again, and who recognized that my gut health was compromised.  Reintroducing meat was the beginning of my recovery.  Before reintroducing meat I was spending several days in bed each month with extreme fatigue and nausea.  I had severe seasonal allergies, eczema and multiple chemical sensitivities that were very debilitating at times.  Paleo changed all that for me.  

As a practitioner I also work exclusively with Paleo-type diets including  SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet), GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) and AIP (autoimmune protocols).  Why?  Because any condition that has leaky gut as a contributing factor (including neurological and autoimmune conditions) requires this type of approach.  A vegetarian diet will not repair leaky gut!  Grains and legumes, which make up a significant part of a vegetarian diet are problematic for the gut in two ways:  
1.  They are rich in lectins, which can be problematic for a damaged gut.  
2. They are high in carbohydrates.  When the intestinal wall is damaged, it can't produce the enzymes needed to complete carbohydrate digestion, and when carbohydrates aren't completely digested, they continue to feed the state of dysbiosis that exists in the gut.

If you are a vegetarian in optimal health, then keep it up.  Continue on your path, making sure to choose organic, whole foods, and to include legumes, nuts and seeds in your diet.

If you suffer from a neurological condition, autoimmune condition, IBS, allergies, asthma, eczema or any other chronic health condition, then Paleo is likely the best choice for you.  If you have tested positive for leaky gut, then a Paleo diet is definitely for you.

Not sure yet?  Try each one for yourself.  Spend a month on each and see how your body reacts.  Monitor your bowel movements, sleep patterns, mood and energy, and pay particular attention to symptoms of your health condition.  I'm still on my journey of recovery, but seasonal allergies are gone, and eczema and chemical sensitivities continue to improve.  Better yet, all those days where I couldn't get out of bed are long gone.  I've tried both dietary approaches, and know that Paleo works best for me.

Besides my personal experience, as a nutritionist I've gone digging and done my research.  When I read the books promoting vegetarian diets, I find all kinds of flaws in research and the way it is interpreted.  Researching dietary approaches is difficult and expensive, so good research is hard to find.  Most of the research I look at is not actually about any specific kind of diet, but rather looks at how foods are supporting our bodies at a metabolic level.  When we look at how food is digested and absorbed, and how it is utilized by the body, then I can't help but support a Paleo way of eating.

What approach works for you?  
Does anyone know why Paleo is capitalized?  It seems to be used this way in all the literature, so I am following the trend.

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

 

 

MICROBIAL DIVERSITY FOR GOOD HEALTH

Did you know that good health depends on microbial diversity in your gut?  The microbes that make your digestive tract their home play a key role in every aspect of your health.  Your relationship with those organisms is a codependent one - you provide a dark, temperature-regulated home that has a constant food supply, and in exchange the microbes regulate every metabolic process in your body including things like immune function, blood pressure, fat storage, hormone function and blood sugar regulation.

Given that your microbes have such an important role, understanding microbial diversity in relationship to disease has been an area of focus in research in recent years.  One area of research has looked at mapping the diversity of traditional societies, and comparing that to modern societies.  Traditional hunter-gatherer societies have been shown to have a greater diversity than city dwellers.  Sadly, with urbanization, we have lost some of that diversity (Source).

Many researchers have speculated that this loss of diversity plays a role in our modern health problems. When we start to compare the gut microbial community of healthy individuals with those of people suffering from chronic conditions such as autoimmune and neurological conditions, we see clear measurable differences.  If you suffer from multiple sclerosis then you likely have reduced Clostridia clusters XIVa and IV (Source), or if you have been diagnosed with Parkinson's then we know that your gut microbes differ from those of healthy individuals (Source).  To find out if your health condition has been researched, do a search with the name of your diagnosis and the word microbiome.

Unfortunately these studies only show us the imbalances that exist in gut microbes with disease, but don't give us any indication as to whether or not a loss of diversity has contributed to the disease.  In order to understand how loss of diversity has affected us, all we can do is go back to the few remaining societies that still have diversity, and look at the kinds of health conditions these groups of people suffer from, and compare them to Westernized  or urbanized societies.  Research into this area, is still in the early stages, but warrants further exploration.

How To Get Gut Microbial Diversity

Jeff Leach, who cofounded the American Gut Project,  has studied the Hadza population in Africa, specifically in relation to their gut microbiomes.  Jeff believes that high fiber content is one of the contributing factors to the Hadza's microbial diversity (Source).

Another of the biggest contributing factors to diversity is your environment.  The greater the diversity of organisms in your environment, the greater the diversity in your gut.  Modern homes and buildings don't provide ideal environments for diversity (Source).

So these factors can provide two important steps to increasing your gut microbial diversity:
1)  Eat a diet rich in plant-based fiber.  Follow the Hudza example and eat a diet that consists mostly of vegetables and fruit.  I usually recommend that 3/4 of any meal should be vegetables or fruit.
2)  Spend time outdoors in a variety of settings.  Here in Calgary we have the mountains at our doorstep.  Closer to home, we have great city parks.  Even closer is your own backyard.  Being outdoors exposes you to a greater variety of microbes.  Open your windows regularly!  It's a simple step that will change the diversity inside your home.

Happy, Healthy Eating (and diversifying)!

Tracey

 

THYROID HEALTH: THE IODINE CONTROVERSY

Iodine is a mineral that is a component of our thyroid hormones.  If you have a look at the image of the molecular structure of a thyroid hormone you’ll see that several iodine atoms are needed (I) on each molecule (see image below).  Deficiency can cause serious problems like goiter or cretinism.  Iodine deficiency affects large numbers of people globally, especially in in-land populations where food sources are rare, and soil is iodine-depleted.  Our bodies are unable to make iodine, so it is considered an essential nutrient that needs to be acquired through diet.

No Iodine

So if it’s so important, then why is there any controversy?  It turns out that if you are one of the people suffering from Hashimoto’s, then taking iodine can be very problematic.  Some practitioners will suggest that seaweeds or other foods with iodine should not be consumed.  But this is where things get confusing, because for every practitioner who says you shouldn’t consume iodine there is another one who says you should.

Iodine can be the trigger for Hashimoto’s because it can reduce the activity of an enzyme called thyroid peroxidase (TPO).  TPO is needed for thyroid hormone production (Source).  Restricting iodine has been shown to be beneficial for Hashimoto’s (Source). 

But what about those people who say iodine is beneficial for Hashimoto’s.  They are right too! 

Iodine + Selenium

Just looking at iodine doesn’t give us a complete picture of what is happening with Hashimoto’s.  Selenium also has a significant role in thyroid health, and when it is deficient thyroid function can be impaired (Source).  Selenium is needed to convert T4 to T3 (the active form of the hormone) and it also helps to regulate the immune response seen in Hashimoto’s (Source). 

The combination of low selenium with high iodine is the problem.  For people who have good selenium levels, iodine supplementation can be beneficial.  For those who have deficient selenium, iodine can be problematic on its own.

It’s important to know your iodine and selenium levels if you are struggling with Hashimoto’s.  Deficiency in these important nutrients could be a contributing factor to your condition.  Or maybe you have high iodine levels, and supplementing with selenium is the missing puzzle piece.

If you have Hashimoto’s, it's important to be on a Paleo-AIP (autoimmune protocol) diet.  Equally important is figuring out your iodine and selenium levels.  Knowing these levels will help you determine if seaweeds and other iodine rich foods should or should not be part of your diet.  The controversy is there for a reason, and you need to find out which route will benefit your health.  I would suggest you go visit a naturopathic or functional doctor who can test both your iodine and selenium levels and develop a supplement protocol that is right for you. 

Happy, Healthy Eating,

Tracey

 

Further Reading:

https://chriskresser.com/iodine-for-hypothyroidism-like-gasoline-on-a-fire/

http://hypothyroidmom.com/a-different-view-on-a-common-autoimmune-disease-hashimotos-thyroiditis/#fn-8438-23